In modern society, it can be tough to take the time to soak up what is going on in the world around you. This day to day rush can be problematic when it comes to our mental health as it is well established that mindfulness can improve our well-being. Health practitioners have increasingly been recommending improving our mindfulness and incorporating it into our daily lives.
General guidance on mindfulness practice
Through the NHS website general guidance on how to improve mindfulness can be found. In short, it is all about taking the time to focus in and attune to yourself and the world around you. This can include really taking note of your thoughts and feelings about certain events, or at any given time. For example, if you are feeling stressed over a deadline at work then taking the time to recognise this will increase mindfulness.
It can also extend to noticing the world around you, whether that be the natural environment you are in, or the animals that occupy it with you. In the general rush of life, a lot of this can go missed by being overlooked. To really attune to the environment, deliberate mindfulness meditation can be used; this includes sitting silently while solely focusing on your breathing and the moment you are in.
But how can VR help mindfulness?
Well, a large majority of the mindfulness practices mentioned above can be enhanced by virtual reality. If the real-world environment around you is too cluttered, noisy, or distracting then mindfulness is difficult to achieve. However, VR can transport you to a calming and peaceful environment to better get in touch with yourself. From a peaceful forest to a serene sea view, whatever matches your type of relaxing environment VR can take you there.
Not only visual stimuli can be incorporated in VR environments, but sounds can also be included. This simple addition aids by giving something to tune into while doing deliberate mindfulness meditation. But it does much more than this. Sounds that match to the environment increase immersion and presence in the virtual world – facilitating the sense of being there. This reduces any effect of VR being a distraction to take away from the mindfulness that is trying to be achieved.
But what about those who don’t know how to be more mindful? Guided meditation sessions are often used in VR mindfulness. These can take the form of a simple on-screen breathing regulator, or a full in-depth guide to breathing exercises and more. And what’s more, is that they are often beginner friendly, allowing for an easy pick-up and use mindfulness session that can be done before work.
This guided, beginner friendly instruction combined with the immersion of VR can be very useful to those easily distracted by things in the real world. Mindfulness is achieved when you block out distraction and stay focused on the moment you are in and your environment. With today’s multi-media, multi-device culture that churns out notifications that need our immediate attention, staying focused can be a seemingly impossible task. Using VR however, eliminates these distractions by ‘physically’ taking you away from it all. By not being able to see or hear the notifications, the fear of missing out that compels us to get distracted and attend to them is not present (or at the very least reduced).
With the aid of additional hardware – such as the Muse headband – meditation and mindfulness can further be enhanced. By tuning into the brain’s electrical impulses, this hardware can detect if you are getting distracted. If this occurs, then changes to the virtual environment to get your mind back on track happen. This immediate feedback directly relates to an active ‘learning’ process of becoming more mindful.
So, to conclude, mindfulness can be achieved through the power of VR.
Immersive environments allow for a tailored mindfulness experience that can transport you away from the daily stressors present in today’s society. Whether your particular serenity can be found in a sea view or a mountain escape, VR can provide it. If you find rainfall peaceful and helpful for focusing your thoughts, then weather can be changed in VR. The shear scope of being able to change the environment to your suiting through VR can aid mindfulness.
Guided sessions also allow for both beginners and seasoned mindfulness practitioners to get the most out of their sessions. Breathing exercises can quickly facilitate mindfulness and extend it beyond deliberate meditation. This extension to use of breathing exercising in daily life can vastly improve mindfulness, and consequently well-being.